Crossfit london In Bethnal Green E2 is famous for many, many things. The 1st ever British Crossfit affiliate, the 9th affiliate in the world, amazing olympic weightlifting classes, the best Crossfit beginner introduction process, its amazing clients, its fantastic coaches ( blah, blah, ). Its also famous for its drill by drill instructional system and its use of allegory and metaphor to help people learn stuff!
The reality is that experiences in one part of your life, can often help elsewhere!
In other words, it’s possible to argue that the Olympic Lifts are wholly informed by your romantic, and for that matter, your pick up ability at parties.
The job of thesquat clean is to lift the bar to the correct height, no more and no less, then get underneath it.
Which is exactly like picking people up at parties
Have you ever met someone at a party and absolutely nailed it in the first few sentences? Have you had one of those moments when you could literally have said “get your coat, you’ve pulled”, and got away with it?
Well done, but be honest, you probably continued talking and screwed it up.
Who hasn’t successfully hit on someone in a party then proceeded to talk their way out of what would have been a perfectly decent shag?
We’ve all been there.
And its the same with thesquat clean..
All you need to do is A) pull the bar B) tell itto “get your coat”” then C) get under it . You have to ( and I mean , “HAVE TO” ) bring your hips all the way in. But, do you need to continue to pull? Do your arms really need to tug it up further? Do you need that big upward shoulder shrug… does the bar need to go sailing up past your chin to the moon before you decide you need to be going down the other way, and fast.
Once the bar is up by your chin in the pull, it’s too late. By this time the bar has thought better of it, it needs to think about things a bit. Now it needs to check with a friend or wash its hair, or get a taxi home, and voila, there you are left all alone.
We’re one team at CFLDN but the folks below have particular roles and responsibilities on top of coaching.
Luke Brumer takes up the role of General Manager leading the management team and taking charge of
making the box a roaring success, something he takes literally by regularly pretending to be a lion. Luke’s
background is in business set-up and turn-around in South Africa’s bar and restaurant sector. As if being a
beast of an athlete (i) wasn’t enough, he’s also had some success as a model (though we try not to hold it
against him). His BBQ (or ‘braai’, for the culturally sensitive) skills are not too shabby either. Famously
friendly, it’s likely he’ll have already greeted you, and he should be your first port of call for help or giving
feedback on how we’re doing. He’s here to make sure being at CFLDN is the best part of your day.
Steve Hennessey is promoted to Head Coach. Steve brings immense experience as a trainer (ii) backed up
by a solid academic background in Chiropractic and Functional Nutrition. Steve leads the coaching team
and is responsible for our programme, teaching standards and athlete membership. As 9th oldest box in
the world, we’ve seen a lot of CrossFit programming at CFLDN, and this man’s output is world-class,
optimising efficacy and sustainability. We’re proud to have him. Steve also runs our nutrition courses and
is available for personal training. Steve is happy to handle any training or membership queries and can
arrange individual consultations with his team for those who want to appraise their progress or take it to
the next level.
Catarina Sa-Dantas is our Customer Service Manager and Luke’s deputy. Hailing from Portugal, Cat
studied Hospitality Management at University. You’re likely to have met her in person or by email if you’ve
contacted support. An administrative ninja, Cat keeps communication flowing, can always find an answer
and has even managed to tame the temperamental booking-system-we-do-not-name. Her duties include
keeping the box’s finances in order and coordinating meetings. In an example of nominative determinism,
she’s also very good with cats, and is often to be found in the company of our magnificent ginger tom (not
you, Harrison!), Box-cat Bob. Contact Cat if you need any help with practical matters, advice on who to
speak to and for bookings of all kinds.
Carolyn Logan, a veteran coach from our early days takes on further duties as a Senior Coach. In
additional to her successful CrossFit and MetCon classes, she presides over the festival of sweat, tears
and heroism that is Friday Night Lights and takes the lead organising social and community events.
Having achieved an early ambition of amassing the finest key-ring collection in all South Yorkshire,
Carolyn became a professional dancer before discovering CrossFit and retraining as a Sports Therapist. In
the latter capacity, she manages our treatment room, so contact her if you need fixing or if you’re
interested in hiring the space yourself.
Alex Miller is another Senior Coach our and Head of Strength. Legendary for his powerlifting classes, Alex
is our undisputed expert in all matters Strength and Conditioning and a popular PT, with encyclopaedic
knowledge and teaching skill we all aspire to. Alex’s background includes high level sport including Judo
and Rugby. Talk to him about any training matter, it’s likely he’ll have the answer.
Rhys Morgan joins as our Senior Gymnastics Coach. An experienced trainer but relative latecomer to the
sport, Rhys knows about the challenges faced by adult learners but is living proof of the standard
obtainable. Rhys focusses on the coaching our Gymnastics Strength classes and will be happy to help you
obtain a range of skills, be that to improve your CrossFit or just for the love of being able to do
Behind the scenes
Keeping a small business alive in London is a tough challenge without compromising community. Behind
the scenes, these guys offer their skills, experience and financial backing to keep the show on the road.
Andrew Stemler, is our Founder and the first CrossFit affiliate holder outside the USA, bringing CrossFit to
Europe in 2005. A CrossFit legend, he is a tireless lifelong learner in a bewildering array of disciplines.
Andrew’s extensive teaching experience has helped hundreds of clients transform their lives. He is
renowned for his inventiveness and client focus and can find drills and progressions to help anyone,
regardless of age, ability or challenges, move towards their goals. His eclectic background includes
property management and 3 years as an East End doorman. Andrew is our lead on Health and Safety and
is an accredited first aid trainer. He coaches across the full range of our classes and is a sought-after PT.
Kate Pankhurst is an early client of CFLDN and a long-time coach, now a Director. Kate works with Luke
and Cat in administering the business, in particular keeping us on the right side of regulation, but her
background as an artist means she takes the lead on much of the design work around the box and the
look and feel of our social media. Originally trained at the Central School of Art & Design, she more
recently studied at the Royal School of Needlework – check out her astounding work at https://www.artofstitch.com
Like Andrew, Kate is also a talented and experienced massage therapist.
The Co-Chairmen are Naim Rahman and Luke Webster. Both long standing clients, they joined the board
in 2016 and helped invest in and deliver the move to the new premises. They ultimately control the
business and are always happy to hear your views, in the box or over a drink.
Naim is a lawyer when not at the gym and focusses on Olympic Lifting (don’t tell him, but pound for
pound, he’s probably one of our best [iii]). His tireless efforts behind the scenes are responsible for much of
the progress of the project to develop the new box. A young family means that he’s generally to be found
training during the day, but he joins our socials whenever he can.
Originally a mathematician and wine merchant, Luke (iv) accidentally moved into finance and somehow now
holds a range of senior positions in both the private and public sector. He tries to make himself interesting
again by learning and coaching gymnastics, and when time permits, can be found in the kitchen or running
the bar at socials as our resident licensee. He has extremely dubious taste in neckwear.
i Luke B’s imposing physique actually stems from high-level competition in the demanding sport of tiddly winks. Such was his early renown, he was presented with the coveted ‘Silver Wink’ by Prince Phillip in 2001. Interestingly, this is not the Prince Consort’s only connection with CFLDN. In 2017 (our only Royal visit to date) he attended a Fundamentals class, allegedly in consequence of drunken bet, but left discretely on finding that his off-colour remarks failed to scandalise an audience already reeling from Andrew’s unique analogies.
ii Steve is also a pretty nifty athlete, renowned for the beauty of his form. But don’t be fooled by this wiry antipodean grace: his childhood sport was Emu wrestling and he is not to be trifled with.
iii Naim is, in his own estimation at least, also our best dancer, although rarely demonstrates for fear of making the rest of us look bad. What is less well-known is that his skills derive from membership of a banned, underground Morris Dancing Side in Bridgend, Wales, infamous for their solvent abuse and unorthodox handkerchief technique.
iv Duplicate names can cause confusion, but the reader should note carefully that the use of differentiators such as ‘tall’ or ‘fit’ to indicate which one is being talked about may have unexpected and drastic consequences. The last offender was found strangled with a bowtie… just saying.
Once you have a few pull ups, it’s ‘easy’ to keep adding to them. The real hard one is getting that 1st pull up. After too many years hanging around and teaching in gyms, here is my ” how to do it” guide based on an original article here
I hope it helps.
If you have no pull ups, here are some essential things you must do:
Get a pull up bar at home. I’d say this won’t guarantee success, but not having one at home will guarantee failure. Do not rely on getting to the gym, or to us for that matter. Also it’s a private matter between you and the bar: basically you have bar “issues” and sometimes its best to deal with “issues” in private. This pull up bar is often recommended JML Iron Total Gym Upper Body Workout Bar
Understand that a pull up is not a rubbishy exercise like all those silly pilates wiggles and squirms that you do. Pull-ups are a predictive happiness test. If you have no pulls ups no-one of quality will want to marry you. If you refuse to get that first pull up, stop reading this and go and get some cats. That’s all you will be good for. If you say ” I don’t have a pull up, but Im married” my answer is stark. “You could have done better”!
. Look honestly at your weight. Pull-ups will be harder to get if you are over-weight. That does not mean you wait until you are the “right weight”. Get going now. It will be harder, but as I often say: “you ate it, now hump it”.
(If you are overweight don’t set yourself the task of losing a few pounds before you do anything; start living your life now. If you are overweight, and are miserable because you are lonely and boyfriendless/girlfriendless/ loverless, put your details up on the raunchiest BBW site that your morality can stand, and hold on to your hat! Big girls and boys are always in demand. You can only lose weight if you are happy. Fending off would-be lovers with a stick is a very practical and measurable marker of happiness. Sitting at home feeling fat and ugly, makes you fat and ugly. Sorry, that not really about pull ups is it.)
Let us begin…
Objective 1: can you hang from the bar with your palms facing towards you (for those in the know, this is the ‘chin-up’ grip that’s a bit easier to begin with)?
Objective 2: can you hang a bit longer?
Objective 3: can you hang a bit longer than objective 2? (can you see where this is going?)
To save a lot of time, can you get to hang on your bar for 10 seconds? When you can, shout “woohoo” (loudly so as to annoy your neighbours) and start on working out how to do your first negative.
You’re first what?
Well in highly technical terms, right, there’s the pulling up bit (right?) and then there’s the lowering bit.
At the moment you are not strong enough to do the pulling up bit, like, but if you were kind of already up there, maybe you could, er, lower yourself down a bit?
Does sort of rather beg the question of “how do i get up there?”…
Well here is the Andrew Stemler “Getting it up guide” (apparently this is a good title that always sells):
Jumping. Grab the pull up bar but instead of trying to pull yourself up, jump up so that your chin is above the bar. This can be easier said than done
By standing on something. Just stand on something that is high enough for you to start out in that already-pulled-up position. A bench, a chair, whatever. Anything you can use as a mini-ladder would be perfect. Perhaps even a mini-ladder?
Stand on something “version 2”. Grab the bar and make your loser boy- or girlfriend (perhaps the one you got from the BBW site) grab your ass and push you up
Now, once you’re in that top position, you’re ready to do the negative part of the pull-up. So, lower yourself down as slow and controlled as you possibly can. Focus on keeping really tight. I don’t mean “refuse to lend people money or get drunk”, I mean “have lots of tension in your body”. Squeeze (your own) bottom together. Brace your abs, squeeze your legs together.
Your first lower (we will call it negatives from now on) will either be agonisingly slow and hurt like hell, or you will fall straight through as you discover you have no strength at all.
Once you have lowered yourself, pop off the bar and reflect. Negatives are very taxing. You need rest between each one and you should never do more than 6 to 8 in a session.
So here is you beginner “CHIN-UPS FOR HAPPINESS” programme
Day 1: neg, neg, neg, neg, neg ( 120 secs rest between each negative)
Rest a day ( drink, eat cake, take all sorts of drugs. Smoking is especially good for you these days as it gets you out in the fresh air
Day 2: neg, neg, neg, neg, neg (90secs rest between each negative) It’s the same but with less rest!
Rest a day (put your own joke in!)
Day 3: neg, neg, neg, neg, neg (120 secs between each negative)
Rest one day
Day 4: The next workout needs you to get that loser boyfriend/girlfriend again. Basically they are going to try and help you pull yourself up and down. They get behind you, grab you…somewhere….(experiment) then they assist you to do….three sets of as many reps as you can with 120 seconds between. So they grab you, and haul you up and down as many times as you can. Could be 1, you could do 2 or 6. The set is over when they cannot push you anymore, not when you feel like it. You will want to stop early as it feels as it you are not doing the work: in fact it’s mainly you.
Rest 120 seconds. Do it again 2 more times.
It’s my way of getting your body to see what the actual task is. No, a lat pull down machine is not a good substitution.
But, what if you cannot get anyone to help you? Well thats beyond this article: but ideas could be to go next door and bug your neighbour, call up your ex-wife. Perhaps the guy selling the Big Issue fancies a couple of quid extra. Get creative, and find someone. Join a religious group and offer to host a scripture reading and slip your set in before you start as “movement prayer”
Rest 2 days.
Day 5: neg, neg, neg,neg, neg (90 secs rest)
Rest 2 days.
Now it’s the big test. Get someone to help you do 1-2 easy, supported reps. Rest for 2 minutes. Then do your 1 chin-up (woohoo!) or hang there trying for a full 7 seconds. Then with 120 seconds rest neg, neg, neg.
If you get that pull up come and talk to us about getting more. If not return to the beginning and start again. If you are very weak it could take many passes through to get your first pull up. But this regime works.
Feel free to suggest improvements or funnier/ruder quips to comments.
My Name is Andrew Stemler and I’m a personal trainer at CFLDN in Bethnal Green E2
If you have come to London, and are living near Bethnal Green E2, and you are feeling lonely, that means only one thing.
You haven’t joined Crossfit London yet.
For over a decade, Crossfit London in Bethnal Green E2 has been using community to drive the performance of its athletes. There is something about sharing your training time with motivated and committed athletes that drives your own performance.
You can jog on your own, and do yoga in your lonely bedroom. You can find a dirt cheap gym and have a relationship with a bicep curling machine, or you can decide to let your awesomeness show by training with us.
We will teach you lots and lots of cool stuff. We will show you how to lift loads safely and effectively while boosting your metabolic capacity (your ability to run, row, bike). We will kick open the doorway to basic gymnastics and teach you how to push up, pull up, dip and handstand. There is a world of cool things in our syllabus that will engage and support you.
We will make you stronger faster and more skilled than you have ever been. You’ll also meet the nicest group of people in the world, who will support and clap and cheer and high five you as you improve. But, there is no such thing as a free lunch: you’ll have to support and cheer and high five others to help them along too.
Unfortunately, at the end of some of our classes, you may be forced to hold a silly pose.
Crossfit london: The pursuit of physical excellence within a supportive community
Little did Aryna Sabalenka realise that her controversial grunting in the 2018 Australian Tennis Open could assist Olympic weightlifters in Bethnal Green E1. A short yell or kiai has always been part of martial arts, and exertion is sometimes accompanied with a bit of a grunt. But, is it a technique or tactic you should use to improve your snatch and clean and jerk?
Damian Farrow (2018) in ‘All the Racquet: What science tells us about the pros and cons of grunting in tennis’, put the advantages of a grunt in simple terms.
If you grunt, you get: a 3.8% increase in groundstroke-hitting velocity and a 4.9% enhancement in velocity.
According to that report “The velocity, force, and peak muscle activity during tennis serves and forehand strokes are significantly enhanced when athletes are allowed to grunt.”
“Grunt history, gender, perceived advantages, and disadvantages of grunting, years of experience, highest level of competition, and order of testing did not significantly alter any of these results”
I must confess that the exact science behind this phenomenon slightly eludes me, but allegedly, increased force on impact lies within the concept of kinetic energy. KE is the energy of motion which is transferred on impact. KE is calculated as one half of the product of mass and velocity squared.
Grunting, so brainy people say, tightens the body core which increases the mass behind the tennis strike, thereby increasing the force on impact resulting in the increased velocity of the tennis ball.
The carry over to Olympic weightlifting at CrossFit London is obvious. If you lift quietly, the chances are you are missing out on some free energy that could move the bar to where you want it.
With the team series in full flow now and everyone’s work volume going through the roof the coaches are starting to see a bit of an increase in elbow and wrist pain. The key preventative here is not exceeding the acute to chronic work ratio. In other words if you’re raising the amount of work you’re doing more than 10% over each four week block. For more info on this look at the work of Tim Gabbett.
At CFL the most common manifestation in this is golfers elbow (inflamation of the tendons and other connective tissue around the elbow).
Tendons are a dense type of connective tissue that connect muscle to bone. They are found at each end of the muscle where they attach to the muscle at what is called the Musculotendinous Junction.
Here the muscle fibers start to become intertwined with the tissue of the tendon which ultimately attaches to the bone. The opposite end of the tendon attaches to the bone at what is called the Osteotendinous junction (“osteo” means bone) and this is what allows muscular contraction to exert force on that bone to generate movement. Tendon can become injured in a variety of ways with tendinitis being perhaps the most well known.
This is just inflammation of the tendon (“itis” means inflammation). Tendinitis can occur acutely but is probably most commonly caused by chronic overuse of the tendon that causes it to become chronically inflamed. In recent years this type of chronic inflammation is more commonly called a tendinosis.
The research on fixing tendinitis is very much pointing towards eccentric work:
– Maffulli N, Walley G, Sayana MK, Longo UG, Denaro V. Eccentric calf muscle training in athletic patients with Achilles tendinopathy, Disabil Rehabil. Advance access published 2008
– Sayana MK, Maffulli N. Eccentric calf muscle training in non-athletic patients with Achilles tendinopathy, J Sci Med Sport , 2007, vol. 10 (pg. 52-8)
– Rees JD, Lichtwark GA, Wolman RL, Wilson AM. The mechanism for efficacy of eccentric loading in Achilles tendon injury; an in vivo study in humans, Rheumatology , 2008, vol. 47 (pg. 1493-7)
In fact in a study on soccer players with adductor tendinitis loading was around 13 times better than rest and ultrasound in facilitating return to play.
So to implement a successful (and pain free) RTP we need to find a way to load you without pain. The adaption we are looking for goes like this:
initiation of movement under load -> chemical signalling -> increased protein synthesis.
This works with the cells in the tendon responding to tension, shear, and contraction. The stimulus from this forces creation of at these new tissue:
We love flexibility, and we humans are particularly good at it. Noah el Harari (he wrote Sapiens), credits flexibility and adaptability as the reason we’re still here, and you speak to anyone in the current day and there’s a serious desire to have a flexible life, without rigidity or structure.
It’s defined as the ability to be easily modified, or the willingness to change or compromise – don’t we all want these. But what about flexibility in the body? No, I’m not talking about being able to do a back bend, I’m talking about the ability to shift between fuel sources depending on the situation – this is the modern phenomenon of metabolic flexibility. Yes, this does means that you can burn fat when you want!
So what is it?
Cell defines metabolic flexibility as “the ability of an organism to respond or adapt according to changes in metabolic or energy demand as well as the prevailing conditions or activity.” Goodpaster (2017).
Though the sexier definition comes from Dr Mike T Nelson, who states that “Metabolic Flexibility enables you to (1) transition between fats and carbohydrates so you can burn more fat when you’re not exercising; and (2) use carbohydrates when you are exercising to fuel that activity and perform at a higher level.”
Forget bulletproof coffee, this sounds like the ultimate “biohack.”
Not only does Metabolic Flexibility have huge effects on looking better naked, but it can drastically improve one’s overall heath and quality of life. In fact, our ability to be metabolically flexible has strong links with mitochondrial function, insulin sensitivity and oxygen utilisation (Goodpaster, 2017). It’s not a new concept either, metabolic flexibility has played a crucial role in our survival, as we would have frequent periods of fasting and indulging, forcing the body to go through physiological change to create a more robust human – you could easily argue that we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have metabolic flexibility.
Kelley et al. (2002) sums it up well: “Due to possible discontinuities in both the supply and demand for energy, humans need a clear capacity to use lipid and carbohydrate fuels and transition between them.(1)”
So let’s look at someone who’s metabolically flexible. These guys are more likely to be lean, active and can go long periods without food. Part of this is being used to using fat as a fuel source and not having huge peaks and troughs in energy that’s dictated by how log ago their last top up of sugar was. There have been correlations with those who undergo intermittent fasting and a ketogenic diet being more metabolically flexible, but then there is solid research on hunter – gatherer communities who live mostly on carbohydrates demonstrating a good level of metabolic flexibility as well. So this topic goes beyond macros and into about lifestyle, genetics and the microbiome.
On the other hand, let’s look at someone who is “metabolically inflexible.” This person is probably overweight, inactive and might kill someone if they don’t have access to a bagel. Why? Well, their energy peaks and slumps throughout the day as they move from each sweet treat to the next…. These folk are “sugar burners” Many of these folk are victims to the modern food system that’s littered with refined carbohydrates, and are supported by it as well (it’s like an abusive relationship). “A little Hungry? Great! Have this delicious cheap sweet thing then come back in two hours for another.”
As we know, this leads to huge blood sugar fluctuations, overconsumption of nutrient poor and calorie rich food, obesity and dietary related disease. These guys have a really tough time burning fat and getting lean, as they’re running on sugar. Once sugar depletes, there’s a serious craving for more sugar.
Okay Steve, I’m sold, how do I become more metabolically flexible?!
How to get more metabolically flexible.
Shocker I know, but if we move our bodies, we become healthier. Which exercises make me more metabolically flexible you ask? Well, it seems that constant movement (not being a desk jockey) with high intense resistance training is a great combo. So go for that morning walk and follow it up with a weights session, and throw SOME higher intensity stuff in there….
2. Cut down on refined carbs:
Breads, bagels, pastas, sweets, they’re all going to halt your ability to become a “fat burner.” Why? Well the body is likely going to be using these as fuel first, kind of like paper on a fire, but we’re continuing to top up on paper (or bagels) then your body doesn’t have an opportunity to access fat stores for energy.
The most important one on the list, a bad night of sleep is the best way to become sugar dependent – Noticed how good all that junk food looks after a night of bad sleep? The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that ONE night of shortened sleep led to insulin levels that looked like that of a type 2 diabetic in healthy people. Good luck saying “no” to cake at the office in this situation.
4. Follow time restricted eating:
The whole intermittent fasting phenomenon follows similar principles of metabolic flexibility. Giving your guts some time between meals and eating in a window (8 hours seems to be opimum) has shown to improve hunger swings, fat burning capacity and metabolic flexibility (Obesity Society). An easy way to do this is having your first meal at 10am and your last meal at 6pm.
5. Chill out
Most of the points above are redundant if we don’t consider the impact of stress on the system. The father of this topic, Dr. Robert Sapolsky has studied the impact of stress and it’s impact on homeostasis at length. His findings show that chronic, prolonged stress alters insulin levels, blood sugar levels, frontal lobe function (responsible for decision making), and has a direct impact on our ability to burn fat.
Concluding, the phenomenon of metabolic flexibility is a key health marker and has a significant impact on our ability to not only look better naked, but to build a more resilient body that’s resistant to dietary related diseases. As always, it takes a holistic approach to achieve this level of health, taking into account fitness, nutrition and lifestyle factors.
Steve is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. While based in London, he works with clients around the world to restore health using fitness, nutrition and lifestyle protocols.
*Disclaimer: This post is for information purposes only, and is not designed to diagnose or treat any disease. Always seek help from a medical professional whenever you undergo any dietary change.
Donga et al. (2010) A single night of partial sleep deprivation induces insulin resistance in healthy subjects. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 95, Issue 6, 1 June 2010, Pages 2963–2968
Freese et al. (2017) The sedentary revolution: Have we lost our metabolic flexibility. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5710317/
Goodpaster, B., & Sparks, L (2017) Metabolic Flexibility in Health and Disease. Cell Metabolism. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2017.04.015
Kelley, D.E., He, J., Menshikova, E.V., Ritov, V.B. (2002) Dysfunction of mitochondria in human skeletal muscle in type 2 diabetes. Diabetes. 51(10).
Moro. (2016) Effects of eight weeks of time – restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance trained males. Journal of Translational Medicine
The much misunderstood “core”. It might be the most misunderstood structure in the body. There is no way that I can make a real dent on the whole subject in one short post but hopefully I can elucidate you in some small way.
When the average person thinks of “core” (which is actually a great term which has unfortunately been bastardised to the extent that it actively annoys me) it’s usually just abs on their mind. Which is fine, abs are cool, they look great and the 100% have a role to play in performance and aesthetics.
Abs and core are not synonymous.
You know that the core is way more than that. When I think of what core training involves I block it as everything above mid thigh and everything below the shoulders (abdominals in the front, paraspinals and gluteals in the back, the diaphragm as the roof, and the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the bottom, inside all of this there is 29 separate pairs of muscles that help stabilise the spine and pelvis (2)). Another way to look at is everything that isn’t peripheral. Whilst I like to define it as above (mid-thigh to shoulders) for ease there is a very strong argument, which I wholeheartedly support, to include the muscles of the jaw and neck into the core, the reason why I’ll cover below (way below, I can already tell I’m going to get carried away.)
Before I go any further into it though what the core is we need to define it’s role as best possible within the confines of this article.
THE ROLE OF “THE CORE”
Whilst there is no common consensus on the exact anatomy, physiology, and methods of how to evaluate a clients “core” functionality, the role on the core is undeniable in terms of proper load balance in the kinetic chain, maximising a persons functional range of motion (proximal stability = distal mobility (7)), providing a base of support for maximises force production as well as protecting the joints by decreasing/minimising joint load, shear, compressive, and translational forces throughout the body (1,2). From a performance point of view it’s easy to see that there is a huge benefit from training “core stability” but one of the most common pathologies we come across as coaches is a client with lower back pain.
Punjabi has described clinical instability (i.e. instability when there isn’t a structural defect cause which may necessitate surgical intervention) as “the loss of the spine’s ability to maintain its patterns of displacement under physiologic loads so there is no initial or additional neurologic deficit, no major deformity, and no incapacitating pain”(3). Clinical lumbar instability in this sense has been cited as a significant cause on lower back pain (4, 5). A meta-analysis of 39 (this is good) randomised trails that investigated treatment of chronic low back pain of non-specific origin with an exercise intervention found a “beneficial effect for strength/resistance and coordination and stabilisation exercise programs over other interventions (6). It’s worth noting in the same meta-analysis that they found little to no benefit from combining the strength/resistance work with “cardio”. From a purely anecdotal point of view with evidence I’d suggest that this is down to people losing pelvo-lumbar control when one hip is in flexion and the other extension (assuming that the cardio prescribed is running, x-trainer, cycling, swimming) and the stability in around the hips and lower back, so as you’re teaching a more stable, controlled lumbar and hip complex with the strength work you’re teaching a less stable/more unstable hip complex at the same time which results in a conflict of adaptation (the adaptation being what any intervention is actually about) and no real change hence no alleviation of lower back pain symptoms. Again, complete conjecture on my part and would need further study.
Riiiiight, I’m aware that this is getting on a little bit. So a really quick round up of this so far:
Core means everything which isn’t arms and legs (and even then it’s a little bit of legs).
Building a strong core is hugely important for increasing your CrossFit performances.
There is a statistically significant benefit on lower back pain from consistently performing core stability exercises.
More than Sit-Ups and the Breathing-Bracing Continuum,
Looking back to developmental movements when, as babies, you first started moving, the first thing that happened was you start wriggling around like a madwomen and learning to, at a very basic level, activate and control all the muscles above. To quote directly from the work of Kobesova and Kolar,
“This allows for basic trunk stabilization, a prerequisite for any phasic movement and for the locomotor function of the extremities.“(9)
So we know that not only is core stability a prerequisite for movement (from crawling, to walking, to gymnastics and lifting) but on top of that recent research into the “mind-muscle connection” shows that by understanding what muscles we’re trying to activate, including there position and function, can improve the contraction and activation (10,11).
To start to delve into how we might address “core training” we need to move to a slightly more global view of what the core musculature actually does. As noted above above the core consists of:
abdominals and accompanying fascial complex in the front,
paraspinals (think lats, spinal erectors (lumbar and thoracic ), traps as a whole and rhomboids) and gluteals in the back (personally I’d like to include hamstrings in here as well),
the diaphragm as the roof,
the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the bottom including
internal stabilisers of the spine and pelvis (External and internal obliques and Transverse Abdominus (TvA), Mulitfidus, Quadratus Lumbrum (QL), Psoas, Illiacus (preferably not to be thought of combined with Psoas (8)), and various ligamental structures that I’m not going into right now).
I’m our case we’ll move away from specific muscle action as soon as possible but before that we need to have an idea about what muscles are working and where they are so we can address bracing and core stiffness with some specificity as well as improved performance
*NOTE: It’s our responsibility as coaches to educate our athletes as much as will help them. I’m not saying they need to read something like this but whatever you can do to help them understand why they’re doing something is a big deal and will help create buy in and trust.*
When anybody talks about core stability a huge part of this can be perceived as “bracing”, defined as:
Whilst it isn’t an exact comparison to what we’re talking about it nicely gets across the message that when we talk about bracing and core stability we are really talking about increasing rigidity,pressure, and tension throughout the body.
And here is finally where we can talk about application!!
When you ask most people who lift about bracing you get a lot of big breathes into the stomach, which is okay. It’s like having half the answer and is way better than hollowing which is, frankly, detrimental to sports performance (13). Application for you is tuning up or down the stiffness you’re creating as it’s applicable to you goal. If you’re doing a 2000m swim then maybe you don’t need to create the same tension as you would for a maximal loaded carry.
I know this isn’t super actionable, at least not straight away, but with some practice and consistent employment of the principles you can learn where and when certain levels of bracing is appropriate. More importantly you should now understand what you’re trying to achieve and why.
Kibler, W., Press, J. and Sciascia, A. (2006). The Role of Core Stability in Athletic Function. Sports Medicine, 36(3), pp.189-198.
Akuthota, V., Ferreiro, A., Moore, T. and Fredericson, M. (2008). Core Stability Exercise Principles. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 7(1), pp.39-44.
Panjabi, M. (2003). Clinical spinal instability and low back pain. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 13(4), pp.371-379.
Delitto A, George SZ, Van Dillen LR, Whitman JM, Sowa G, Shekelle P, et al. Low back pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2012;42(4):A1–57. doi:10.2519/jospt.2012.0301.
Long DM, BenDebba M, Torgerson WS, Boyd RJ, Dawson EG, Hardy RW, et al. Persistent back pain and sciatica in the United States: patient characteristics. J Spinal Disord. 1996;9(1):40–58.
Searle, A., Spink, M., Ho, A. and Chuter, V. (2015). Exercise interventions for the treatment of chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Clinical Rehabilitation, 29(12), pp.1155-1167.
Mattacola, C., Kiesel, K., Burton, L. and Cook, G. (2004). Mobility Screening for the Core. Athletic Therapy Today, 9(5), pp.38-41.
McGill, S. (2009). Ultimate back fitness and performance. p.78.
Kobesova, A. and Kolar, P. (2014). Developmental kinesiology: Three levels of motor control in the assessment and treatment of the motor system. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 18(1), pp.23-33.
Calatayud, J., Vinstrup, J., Jakobsen, M., Sundstrup, E., Brandt, M., Jay, K., Colado, J. and Andersen, L. (2015). Importance of mind-muscle connection during progressive resistance training. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 116(3), pp.527-533.
Critchley, D. (2002). Instructing pelvic floor contraction facilitates transversus abdominis thickness increase during low-abdominal hollowing. Physiotherapy Research International, 7(2), pp.65-75.
Collins, W. (2011). Collins dictionary. London: HarperCollins.
McGill, S. (2009). Ultimate back fitness and performance. p.75-76.
If you’re reading this blog, odds are you’re already neck-deep in the CrossFit Kool-Aid, so I won’t waste your time explaining the whole ‘CrossFit’ thing to you. But that means you’re all too aware that life can be a struggle for the CrossFitter about town. Tearing your hands. Having to explain what CrossFit is every time you mention it (which is frequently). Getting out of bed after Annie. Walking up stairs after Cindy. Having to turn down an invitation to thirsty Thursday because it’s Fran tomorrow and you need to beat your PR.
Life is tough.
Here are 10 life-hacks to make your day, inside and outside of the gym, a little bit easier. These aren’t wishy-washy ‘eat clean’, ‘trust the process’, ‘take a rest day’, ‘work on your weaknesses’ type hacks. We all know them, and we know we ignore them. These are real-life, genuinely applicable hacks to make your CrossFit lives easier.
#1 Accessory Successory
More accessories means better CrossFit. You perform better with knee sleeves, wrist wraps and headbands on. You just do. You’re sure of it because of that one winter when your knee hurt a bit and now you need knee sleeves for every WOD. Unfortunately, CrossFit makes you sweat. Sweat breeds bacteria. Bacteria smells like ass. Ergo, your accessories smell like ass.
The solution: don’t put on a special cold-wash cycle for these little things. Take off your knee sleeves, wrist-wraps and other fabric accoutrements in the shower, pour some shower gel on them and give ’em a stomp. They’ll be dry and smelling sweet by the next day ready to wear again.
#2 On your knees
Speaking of knee sleeves, they have another purpose other than smelling like death and protecting from imaginary injuries.
Got a lunging WOD coming up? While the rest of the class bumbles around getting a mat – which they will then repeatedly trip on throughout the workout – slip on a pair of thick, cheap sleeves and your knees will be nice and protected wherever you may lunge.
Rocktape currently has a sale on their KneeCaps (true as at 26th Aug 2018) and are selling them for £12.99 per pair (not per sleeve as is often the case).
#3 Fail to prepare (your nutrition), prepare to fail!
(Get ready! Shameless self-promotion coming up)
Most of us do CrossFit because we want to look good naked. Unfortunately the hard part isn’t the WOD, it’s the other 23 hours of the day. If you’re not fuelling properly, you’re not going to get the results you want.
If only there was some sort of shop, cafe or ‘refuelling bar’ right in the gym. Oh wait, there is!
You can get NOCCO, coffee and various protein-infused treats at SE11 and CFL, or in the Shake It bar at CFL you can pre-order your shakes before the workout and pick them up on your way out (after you’ve taken your knee-sleeves for a shower).
Even if you don’t buy something from the gym, eat something. Anything.
#4 Don’t hang your WOD from the end of your rope
Have you ever been mid-way through a WOD only for the fastener to come off your skipping rope and ruin what was bound to be a white-board-topping time? If not, odds are you’ve seen it happen to someone else and watched them scrabble around on the floor trying to find their little rope screw fastener thingy.
Are you planning on growing any taller? No? Then you don’t need your rope to be adjustable anymore. Superglue down the plastic nubbins at end of your rope and you’ll never have to worry about it coming apart again.
#5 Peeing clearly
We workout, we sweat, we lose fluids, we drink more. But even before you did CrossFit, odds are you weren’t drinking enough water. Now that you are, the likelihood is that your water deficit is even greater.
While you’re at work, have a 2 litre bottle of water sitting on your desk as a constant reminder to drink. That two litre bottle needs to be empty by the end of the day. When it is, fill it back up, pop it in the fridge, and it’ll be ready for tomorrow.
Or better yet, buy our exclusive CFLDN water bottle and be the envy of your friends and super-hydrated at the same time.
#6 Hipster Hair Hack
A few years ago this hack would have been aimed almost exclusively at the ladies, but with the rise of the man-bun, this is no longer the case.
If you have long hair, you’ve likely had your ponytail come loose during a WOD, or got it caught under a bar bringing it down onto your back, or even been stupid enough to trap yourself under a foam roller. Don’t be that guy (or gal).
Leave a few spare hairbands around your water bottle, so that you’re never caught short during your next hair-related emergency.
Man-bun don’t look so silly no more, do it?
#7 You call that a knife? This is a knife!
Thick, hard calluses tear.
Thin, soft ones don’t.
Torn hands = no CrossFit.
You do the maths.
‘Corn and callus knife’ available at Boots to shave down those thick bits o’ nasty skin.
Make sure to replace the blade frequently and don’t be too aggressive with it! It’s still a knife.
#8 Double deadlift hack
I heard once that more injuries in the gym come from loading and unloading bars with careless form, than they do from the actual lift. That may or may not be true, but the next time you load a bar consider what your spine looks like vs how it looks when you perform the deadlift.
Love them or hate them, at some point you’re going to have to pick up a heavy thing at the gym. Whenever deadlifts roll around, first thing you should do is pick a spot by the plate stack. Save yourself time shlepping plates back and forth by loading up right next to the stacks.
Next hack: loading and unloading. You only have two hands to lift the bar off the floor and slide new plates on at the same time, which gets tricky as things get heavier. Don’t bother buying a deadlift jack; save yourself some time and money and grab a 0.5kg plate. Roll your loaded bar onto that plate and it will raise the bar a few millimetres off the floor, and enough that a plate will slide on or off with ease.
#9 Get a grip
Are you using a hook grip yet? No? You’re an idiot.
You know those CrossFit fail videos where someone wrenches a bar off the floor, only for their hands to slip and then they fall on their ass? Odds are they weren’t using a hook grip. There’s not an elite-level CrossFitter or Olympic Lifter in the world who doesn’t use this grip. You should be using it too.
If you’re not using it yet, here’s how to start:
Every time you pick up an empty bar and the class starts doing drills, do it with a hook-grip (see picture). Then go back to your normal grip when you add weight. It will hurt, but it won’t hurt forever. Do this for a few weeks and eventually the hook-grip will feel like second nature and your regular grip will feel weird.
But it won’t happen until you do it. Start light. Stick with it.
#10 He ain’t heavy, I do CrossFit
I’m sorry to tell you, you’ve been doing partner-carries all wrong. Forget piggy-backing. Piggy-backs are for babies and pigs (presumably).
Check out this video which explains the Fireman’s carry.
(Recognise the gym? That’s what Malcolm Place looked like in 2011!)